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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Apparently I made raspberry jam this past summer

I say, apparently, because I have no recollection of making this kind of jam. I remember making strawberry, vanilla-rhubarb and vanilla-plum, however. How can I spend an afternoon making something and not remember it?

That's how my summer went. I have several patches of low-memory from the summer. So, when fall slid in, I felt like I never had a summer. I will endeavor to make up for that with Summer 2017!

Anyway, here's the frugal cake that I made to celebrate both my son's (Nov. 19) and his girlfriend's (Nov. 16) birthdays.

The cake, itself, is a scratch vanilla butter cake, using the recipe in this link. I baked it early in the week, and froze the layers. I made a frosting of cocoa powder, butter, confectioner's sugar, vanilla, salt and milk. I had a busy weekend, before the celebration, so I made the frosting a couple of days in advance, and kept it covered in the refrigerator. By doing so, I had the ease of canned frosting, on the day of putting the cake together.

To make our celebration cakes "fancy", I like to split the layers, using my serrated bread knife, and spooning in generous amounts of homemade jam. For this cake, I discovered the homemade raspberry jam in my garage fridge. A delightful surprise to me! (That's the upside of my recent forgetful episode -- lots of stuff come as delightful surprises.) This is a simple trick that really elevates an ordinary layer cake, in a matter of 5 or 10 extra minutes.

Just before putting candles on the cake, I also spooned some warmed jam (warmed, to thin it for pouring) over the top of the chocolate-frosted cake. I love to combination of berries and chocolate.

I estimate that my home-baked, scratch birthday cake cost about $2.50, for the cake, the frosting and the jam. I spent about 1 hour and 10 minutes of hands-on time, making this cake. If I had bought a bakery birthday cake, of this quality, my cost would have been about $25. I compare my scratch cakes to those of a moderate bakery, which would use premium ingredients, such as butter, real vanilla and a fruit filling, in addition to a buttercream icing. In such case, I "earned" about $19 per hour for my time investment.

There are some things in life that matter to me. A cake made with quality ingredients happens to be one of those. I've enjoyed baking since I was 8 years old. It seems fitting that this would be on my personal list of things that brings me enjoyment, both in the consuming and creating.


  1. Maybe you made the jam two summers ago? I'm sure the cake was delicious and appreciated by all.

    1. Good morning, live and learn,
      hmm, I have no recollection of making raspberry jam the year before, either! The cake was very good.
      Have a lovely day!

  2. What a nice birthday celebration cake!

    I have cut out birthday cakes when the kids turned probably 18. I think the last cake for a birthday was by youngest daughter's 18th a couple of years ago and it was an ice cream cake!

    Oh, we've had cakes but not a lot of them and not at birthdays. And the family does have sweet treats so don't think I don't allow that. The prefer ice cream treats, cookies or chocolate way better.

    Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!


    1. Hi Alice,
      Every family is different. No need to explain. We enjoy our cakes, here. Personally, I think I prefer chocolate, myself.
      Have a lovely day, Alice!

  3. You sell yourself short, Lili. Around here, we have one "average priced" bakery that uses the quality of ingredients you describe. They would have charged more than $25. In fact, I just checked the prices of another local bakery and their cake deposits start at $25!

    Homemade birthday cake is a big deal to me, too. Whenever I've gotten in a pinch & even considered picking up a store bought cake, I stop and think, "Why would I pay so much for such poor quality?"

    We celebrated my niece's birthday last weekend. My 11 yr. old really wanted to make the cake, so I let her. She decided on a sponge cake. The layers came out super thin. After I realized what she had done, I suggested she start over with a regular butter based vanilla cake recipe. I told her that sponge cake is not meant to be frosted with buttercream, as she was planning. Anyway, she decided to make another recipe of sponge cake. She ended up with a four layer cake frosted with orange buttercream (my niece's favorite). It didn't look all that pretty, but it sure tasted good and my daughter got some good hands-on experience. Melissa

    1. Hi Melissa,
      Good job to your daughter. That was sweet that she wanted to make her cousin's cake. And for an 11 year old, she did quite well. You're right, the experience will benefit her.

      I feel the same way about grocery store cakes. I don't care for the frosting, and the cake doesn't seem to have much flavor. So, for me, it's a value thing. it's too much money for something that I don't care for. Anyway, I'm glad that baking a scratch cake is as easy as it is.

      Have a great day, Melissa!

  4. That looks wonderful! I always put a layer of homemade preserves inbetween 2 layers of cake, must be a French thing, as my family has always done this!

    1. Hi Carol,
      How interesting! Perhaps, in my heart, I have a pinch of French in me! I love a fruit filling in cake. It adds dimension to the basic flavors of vanilla and chocolate.
      Have a great day, Carol!

  5. Oh, yum! That cake looks delicious! I also love the combination of chocolate and berries.

    It's neat that your son and his girlfriend have birthdays so close together.

    Hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    1. Hi Angie,
      It's very handy, being able to celebrate both of their birthdays, together. As our family has become increasingly busy in individual lives, it's more and more difficult to find one celebration date that works for everyone. And I only had to bake one cake! We nearly burned the dining room down, with candles for both of their ages, though!

      Wishing you a lovely Thanksgiving, too, Angie!

  6. Vanilla cake made from scratch is my favorite. Chocolate frosting and berry jam with it--delicious! I have made your recipe and it's a great one.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Hi Mary,
      I'm glad you like that recipe. It's one of those old homemaker-type recipes, from the 1950's, and never fails me.
      Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Mary!

  7. You can make cake for me anytime! Yum!

    Have a great Thanksgiving!

    1. Hi Kris,
      if only you lived closer! A lovely little tea party, with cakes, tea, sandwiches, with all of my wonderful blog friends.
      Wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving, Kris.

  8. Thank you for the reminder that simple desserts can be elegant. Whenever I am looking for a dessert to take somewhere, I always think it needs to be something different. Today was a great reminder that I need to look no further than in my own pantry for something simple and elegant.

    1. Hi Ruthie,
      I think, as individuals, we tend to minimize how wonderful some of our own kitchen creations really are. To us, they seem hum-drum and ordinary, but to others, they do feel and taste special. And something baked from scratch is always appreciated, as so few people cook and bake from scratch, any more. I am betting that you bake some pretty spectacular desserts!

      Have a lovely Thanksgiving with your family, Ruthie.

  9. I am never going to be a good cook or baker, so box mix cakes and store bought is the best I'll ever experience. I don't think I could spring for a quality bakery cake, and probably wouldn't be able to taste the difference anyway since I don't eat desserts often enough. That said, I am struggling to find variations to the old box mix cake since I recently bought 6 boxes (bought on sale, with coupon and online rebate) in my attempt to try to use up our electricity overage. My plan is offer my box mix cupcakes in lieu of Costco muffins (which is dad's staple) and hope he doesn't complain.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family, Lili, and everyone too!! We're not having an easy time deciding what the plan is tomorrow. Believe it or not, this is why I don't like holidays. It is too much heartache, headache and having to choose sides.


    1. Hi YHF,
      I'm not sure I've ever had a Costco muffin. Are they that good, that your dad would rather have one of those, over a cupcake?

      There's really a lot you can do with a cake mix. You can even bake cookies with the mixes. How is the electricity-use challenge coming along? Your freezer must be filling up rapidly!

      I hope you all can work out your Thanksgiving plans, with ease from here on out. I can relate to the angst of dealing with indecisiveness, in others as well as my own self. It seems to make everyone cranky.

      Whatever happens tomorrow, I hope you have a lovely day!

  10. I am not fond of Costco baked goods, especially the muffins can be hit or miss. Very inconsistent. Sometimes I think it is pretty good and at other times it seems dry and almost unpalatable, but my father prefers the muffins to other baked goods. He eats at least one per day, so he may miss it more than you would think. I think maybe I should offer the cupcakes in addition, which may stretch buying the cupcakes a bit. He has very good appetite for an almost 94yo, so husband always jokes when I add another thing to his menu that soon it will become a permanent addition.

    I hope tomorrow will be enjoyable for all...the plan now is to do a partial at our home (in the country) during the day for our daughter's plan and later for dinner we all meet together at a diner closer to town for our son's plan, then all the children return with us for the next few days at our home. I'm glad we are retired, or we couldn't do this.


  11. Your cake looks soo good. It is nice when birthdays can be combined. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Here is to starting new traditions.
    Have a fantastic day.


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